March 12th was NOT the Birthday of “The Internet”

world-wide-web-birthdayA lot of news stories circulated yesterday celebrating “the birthday of the Internet”. I’m about to get a little nitpicky here, but guess what, it’s my blog so I can do what I want. If anything, March 12th can be considered the birthday of the World Wide Web, but the Internet has been in existence in various forms since 1969. So for technical correctness, please stop saying this is the 25th anniversary of “the Internet”. I know that for many of us, the web – for all practical purposes – IS the Internet, but let’s try to be just a little historically correct, shall we?

That being said, I’m about to get even more nitpicky. March 12th, 1989 is the date that Tim Berners-Lee first put forth a proposal to his employer, CERN, for developing a new way of linking and sharing information over the Internet (just to reiterate my point above, the Internet had to already BE in existence in order to create a World Wide Web). However I feel it is a stretch to say that this proposal, while it was the genesis of the World Wide Web, is the actual birthday of the web. This proposal put forth the very basic ideas that would grow into the web. However, if one reads the proposal, it is much more of a request to research the feasibility of such a system and to develop a future plan to implement such a system. In fact, at the end of the proposal, Berners-Lee specifically calls out that a second phase would be required to set up a real system at CERN. To boot, this proposal was never actually officially accepted, but Berner-Lee’s boss allowed him to work on it as a side project.

So what do I consider the real birthday of the World Wide Web? It’s hard to say specifically, but here are some important dates:

  • November 12, 1990: This is the date that Tim Berners-Lee put forth another proposal detailing the technical specification for actually developing a system that he called “WorldWideWeb”. This proposal was accepted and the real work of creating the web was put into motion. This could more accurately be called the birthday of the web.
  • February 26, 1991: On this date Berners-Lee released the first web browser to his colleagues within CERN. At this point the web was only available within CERN, but the fact that people were browsing is significant.
  • May 17, 1991: The first machine set up as a web server to the public Internet is set up by Tim Berners-Lee. Truly, this could be considered the birthday of the web as it was the first time anyone in the world (who had Internet access, of course) could feasibly browse the web. Not that there was much information of interest available that day. From this point forward, web servers were set up in organizations all over the world and development of web browsers for all computer operating systems began in earnest.
  • April 30, 1993: The source code of the World Wide Web protocols are made public domain by CERN. Tim Berners-Lee urged CERN to do this so that it would be freely available to anyone who wanted to set up a web site. Had this not happened, it would have changed the history of the web as the de-facto standard for organizing and sharing information on the Internet. Some people consider this the real birth of the World Wide Web and the moment the Internet began to creep into the mainstream.

Now, I’m not going to argue much with the people behind the Web at 25 movement, since Tim Berners-Lee himself is supportive of this project, even thought I might disagree with the particulars. They say he “invented” the web in 1989, but that’s like saying Edison invented the light bulb before he actually got it working. It’s one thing to come up with an idea, it’s another to actually make it reality. I still say that the “invention” or “birth” of the World Wide Web took place in late 1990/early 1991 as the dates above show. But if people want to celebrate the idea that the web was born on March 12, 1989, that’s fine, especially since the man who created it isn’t arguing. In my research as a technology historian, I know that many dates in history are hard to pin down exactly, especially when it comes to technology development. In fact, the dates I list above may not be entirely accurate depending on how people define technology releases and which source is claiming what. So at least March 12, 1989 does point to written documentation of the first reference to the project that would eventually become the World Wide Web. But please, at least call it for what it is, not “the birthday of the Internet”.

Christians and Jim Crow and Gays, Oh Myyy!

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
- a quote often (mis)attributed to Voltaire and Patrick Henry

we_reserve_the_right_signI’ll be honest. I hesitated to write this article. I hesitated because at times I will be defending people whose actions I disagree with. I also know that gay rights is a very hotly-debated topic right now so take the risk of offending some people. In fact, I risk offending people on both sides of the issue! However, for all the rhetoric going back and forth I think most people are missing the bigger picture. And the bigger picture is very important to consider in the framework of the debates going on right now. So in the interest of adding to the dialogue and hopefully presenting a fresh viewpoint, I am just going to put my thoughts out there and let come what may. But first, let me tell you a personal story.

My father died of cancer when he was 50 years young. Most likely the cancer was caused by his many years of smoking. I was only 29 when he passed 10 years ago. He died on the same day my second daughter was born. Besides my own loss, smoking robbed my daughters of a grandfather, my wife of a father-in-law, and my mom of a husband. More than most people, I have every reason to hate the practice of smoking. So several years ago when laws to ban smoking in “public” places were being debated in my area, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that I would have been supportive of passing those laws. However, then as now, I put my own personal feelings aside for the sake of freedom. While I certainly am supportive of and applaud any establishment that chooses to not allow smoking on their property, I do not support a government-enforced ban. I knew then as I know now that even if I vehemently disagree with someone’s actions, a free society does not attempt to enforce their own morality on a person’s life or business. Rather, we make our viewpoints known by actually expressing our thoughts to those who run businesses and ultimately with our dollar vote.

Prior to any legally-enforced smoking bans I was more likely to visit restaurants that were voluntarily non-smoking. And I generally did not visit bars or places where smokers hung out. I made my thoughts on smoking known to anyone who would listen. But I wasn’t going to advocate for the use of government violence to enforce a ban on smoking. As a business owner I knew that how I choose to run my business, just as I choose to live my life, is my right. I wouldn’t tolerate anyone else telling me how to run my business or live my life, so I wasn’t about to support doing the same to others, no matter how much I couldn’t stand the decisions they were making.

Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.
- Voltaire (he actually did say this – in French of course!)

Fast forward to today and the same basic issue of the rights of business owners has arisen again. Only this time the question is whether businesses can choose to deny service to a customer. Several states at the time of this writing, most notably Arizona although Missouri is about to jump in the mix, are debating passing laws that absolve business owners of any liability if they choose to deny service to gay people based on moral objections. This issue has primarily been brought about by the new legality of gay marriage in many states. Businesses that revolve around the marriage industry, such as cake bakers and wedding photographers, are now being asked to service gay couples. Some are turning down this business, often on the grounds that they do not support gay marriage because of their religious beliefs. Some couples who were refused service have taken to prosecuting business owners for discriminating against them in these instances, often citing various equality or civil rights laws. Therefore the reaction by several states has been to propose new laws that are designed to protect business owners if they are exercising their right to refuse business on moral grounds. And that is where things get real sticky.

First let me state that as a human being, let alone a business owner, I do not discriminate based on a person’s sexuality. I have several clients who I believe are gay and I’ve employed people who were apparently gay. I say it in this way because I don’t really bother to ask or investigate people’s sexuality. Whether someone is gay or not is really no matter to me, especially when it comes to earning their business or having them help me service my clients. Therefore, I do not personally agree with any owner who chooses to not do business with gay people. However, I also respect their right to make that decision. Just as I respect their right to serve or not serve people based on other criteria, such as dress code, behavior, ability to pay, or if they are smokers in a non-smoking establishment. I may not agree with their decisions, but I won’t try to force my personal morality upon them. In fact, I wrote an article almost two years ago discussing this whole topic, titled Freedom, Discrimination, and Morality.

In that article I discuss the infamous Jim Crow laws as well as the equally infamous Apartheid laws of South Africa. Many gay rights advocates are claiming that proposed laws such as Arizona’s SB 1062 are the same as Jim Crow laws because they institutionalize the practice of discrimination. Again, while I disapprove of discrimination against gay people, the fact is that there is quite a bit of difference between Jim Crow laws and Arizona SB 1062. Where the new bill is purported to protect the rights of business owners to turn away business as they see fit, Jim Crow laws and Apartheid FORCED discrimination upon the population. As a business owner in those southern states, you were required to keep “separate but equal” facilities for “people of color”. Apartheid enforced similar rules. Even if you weren’t a racist, the governments required you to follow these laws, which were true examples of state-sanctioned, institutionalized discrimination. The proposed Arizona law, as well as the laws being proposed by other states, do not require businesses to turn away gay people. They simply protect business owners from prosecution under other laws in case they get sued for refusing to serve particular customers. To reiterate, I do not approve of or condone discrimination based on sexuality, but I also respect the rights of business owners to serve who they choose. Ultimately, the freedom of a business owner to run a business the way they see fit trumps any objections I have. I believe this because I believe in freedom. Others should believe this as well, if for no other reason than protecting other people’s rights is the best way to protect their own. However, this doesn’t mean people should sit quietly when they believe strongly about something. We can choose to show our objections by not supporting a business with our money and encouraging other people to do the same. Which is ultimately the best way free people can help shape society.

In fact, the history of Jim Crow laws are an interesting case study of the forces of free markets on society. After the civil war, there was a lot of racial tension. Many white landowners didn’t want to hire black workers. Many white business owners didn’t want to serve black people. However, the free market began to erode racist attitudes. Black workers who were willing to work for less enticed white land owners to hire them. Business owners who were turning away black people began to lose business to those who would serve them. Black people started running their own businesses, putting competitive pressure on other businesses to hire black people at better wages and service black people as well. It seems that “evil” profit turns out to be a greater motivator than racism. It was only after reconstruction when racists, unhappy at the way the free market was giving black people the same opportunities as white people, gained the power of a government. It was with that power that they were able to institutionalize racism through the violent force of government laws. First, they disenfranchised black voters through measures such as poll taxes. Then laws were passed that used licensing as a way to restrict black people from starting their own businesses. Regulations were created that restricted black people from owning guns and protecting themselves. And finally the Jim Crow laws were passed making racism a government-sanctioned and enforced way of life. Without the violent force of government, the free market was well on its way to minimizing racism. Institutionalized racism only endured because of big government.

In the same way today, the free market is helping reduce homophobia, regardless of proposed laws like Arizona SB 1062. These laws don’t require discrimination based on sexuality, they only claim to protect the freedom of business owners to serve who they choose. As business owners found out after the civil war, you stand to lose business to other companies that do not discriminate for bigoted reasons. We don’t need laws that force business owners to serve people – we just need government to NOT pass laws that enforce discrimination.

Before you think I am a proponent of laws like Arizona SB 1062, slow your roll. Just as I don’t want government to institutionalize discrimination, I don’t want government to pass laws that serve no purpose or are band-aids for other bad laws. There should be no reason for proposed laws to be necessary in the first place. If a business owner doesn’t want to provide service to a customer, that is their right. There should be no recourse against them as they didn’t violate anyone else’s rights. To be perfectly clear, you DO NOT have the right to make a business owner serve you. It is only because of other government regulations in force today that people think they can force others to work for them. Instead of passing new laws that seem to have the insinuation of government-sanctioned discrimination, we should be repealing those laws that allow others to sue companies and put them out of business. It simply isn’t right in a free society to force someone to work for another. If we really want to get down to it, the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution outlawed involuntary servitude. I’m not sure if a better example exists of involuntary servitude than using the violent force of government to compel a business owner to work for someone else.

Let’s go back to my original story. I hate smoking. As part of my business, I go into a lot of people’s homes. I have thought about no longer doing business with people who smoke in their homes because I simply can’t stand the smell of cigarette smoke, not to mention the nasty residue that cigarettes leave all over the computer equipment I work on. Luckily for me, it seems that fewer and fewer people smoke in their homes anymore, so this isn’t as big of a problem as it was when I first started working in people’s homes almost 20 years ago. However, I reserve the right to refuse to service anyone who smokes if I so choose. Imagine if someone tried to sue me because I refused to serve them in their smoky homes. That would be ludicrous. Or worse, imagine if a gay smoker decided to sue me because they thought I was discriminating against them for being gay or at least spun it that way to be malicious. As it stands, I could be liable under various laws even though I’m not doing anything wrong. I’ll say it again, it is simply wrong in a free society to force someone to work for another. Disagree with that and you start running down a very slippery slope.

Imagine a gay business owner who wants to refuse service to a homophobe. Perhaps this person wants “God Hates Gays” baked on a cake or T-shirts made with that phrase. Or they want a gay photographer to take pictures of a Westboro Church Rally. The knife cuts both ways when we infringe upon business owners’ right to refuse service. Now some of you will try to rationalize this away by saying something like homophobes choose to be hateful and being gay is the way people are born so it’s not the same thing. Rationalizations work all well and good when choosing to infringe certain rights – as long as your group has political power. Rationalizations can be used against you when the other side has power. Rationalizations are the reason institutionalized discrimination has existed. Rationalizations are the reason “Separate but Equal” was allowed to exist. Be careful how you rationalize away people’s rights because your rights might be next.

I can appreciate people’s feelings getting hurt when they are discriminated against. As a hispanic person, I’ve been lucky enough to avoid most racial discrimination in my life, but I’ve held my tongue a few times when people have made racial remarks about hispanics in front of me. They obviously didn’t know my heritage and it wasn’t worth the confrontation to say something. But I’m not about to go advocate for laws forcing people to not speak their mind if they are saying things I don’t agree with. Even with laws on the books that allow me to sue people for discrimination, I would not prosecute if I faced it. Why? Because I believe in the power of free people solving their own problems and because these are the sorts of actions that lead to reactionary laws like Arizona SB 1062.

I have a self-professed bisexual friend who frequently posts on Facebook, “Love is Love and All Love is Good Love“. To those who fought and still fight to make gay marriage legal I must ask, what are you fighting for? Because if you are fighting for love, then ask yourselves this: is it love to force someone else to work for you? Is it love to force someone to do something that is against their morality? Whether or not you agree with someone’s beliefs, don’t you ask of others that your own beliefs are at least respected? You have long fought for tolerance and respect. Don’t now become the aggressors. Don’t become like the very people you have fought and continue to fight against. Everything you have worked for can come crumbling down if you use the violent force of government to enforce your morality on others, just as they have done to you for so long. If you are fighting for love, then show love to your neighbors who may not yet completely accept your way of life. Respect their beliefs as you ask them to respect yours. Ultimately, you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar. If a business chooses not to serve you, just find another that does. I have no problem if you choose not to do business with that company in the future and feel free to encourage others to not support them either. But you cross the line when you ask government to threaten a business with violence if they don’t serve you and in turn become the very people you claim to be fighting against.

In the same vein, it is certainly within people’s rights to boycott businesses that they don’t like for whatever reason. However, I would caution people like George Takei who advocate boycotting all businesses in an entire state because that state passed a law they don’t like. Guess what? There are many more businesses in that state who would not discriminate against gay people then there are who would, even if given the legal room to do so. And lots of those businesses are probably owned by gay people. Don’t do your cause a disservice by throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Target those businesses directly that have policies you don’t like, but don’t punish innocent businesses simply because their state government did something you don’t approve of.

If you truly believe in freedom you must be willing to allow others their freedom, even if you don’t agree with what they advocate. Otherwise, we are hypocritical to fight for some freedoms while denying others theirs. Freedom is Freedom and All Freedom is Good.

With that, I’ll leave you with part of the famous speech from the movie, “The American President”.

America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me THAT, defend THAT, celebrate THAT in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.

 

Sneek Peek #3 of Diggers Episode Featuring Steve Jobs Lost Aspen Time Tube

Here is the second clip I found from the upcoming episode of Diggers where we recovered Steve Jobs’ Lisa mouse.

Another Sneek Peek of Diggers Episode Featuring Steve Jobs Lost Aspen Time Tube

I found two additional clips from the upcoming episode of Diggers where we recovered Steve Jobs’ Lisa mouse. Here is the first one:

Sneak Peek of Diggers Episode; “Lost” Steve Jobs Aspen Time Tube

C|NET just released a video sneak peak of the upcoming Diggers episode where they unearth the Lost Apsen Time Tube containing Steve Jobs’ Lisa mouse from his “Lost” 1983 Speech. I am featured at the end of the clip talking about Steve Jobs and the mouse. Check it out!

The original article with the video is here on C|NET’s site.

“Lost” Steve Jobs Time Capsule Episode to Air February 25 on National Geographic Channel

This is a picture of me, the cast of Diggers, and two people who were at the IDCA conference in 1983. From left to right, "Ringy", me, "KG", Thane Roberts, and my client John Celuch.

This is a picture of me (second from the left), the cast of Diggers, and two people who were involved with the time capsule at the IDCA conference in 1983. From left to right, “Ringy”, Marcel Brown, “KG”, Thane Roberts, and my client John Celuch. The time capsule is behind us.

We finally have an official air date for the highly anticipated excavation of the “Lost” Steve Jobs Time Capsule and his Lisa mouse that was buried inside. The National Geographic Channel will air two episodes of Diggers on February 25th starting at 10 PM Eastern. One of the episodes will feature the Aspen Time Tube and the efforts that finally culminated in the recovery of the Lisa mouse. I will also personally be featured in the show, offering historical perspective on the significance of Steve Jobs, the “lost” speech that he gave at the conference in Aspen, the history of the technology industry since 1983, and some of the more interesting technology artifacts that were uncovered.

I have little details about the episode but here is what I have been told:

  • Usually Diggers runs 30-minute segments per dig site, but because the Aspen excavation was such a big project it will be featured for an entire one hour episode.
  • The Aspen episode is intended to be the season premiere. Whether this means it will air first of the two episodes that night is still up in the air, but I certainly hope so!

So set your DVRs and don’t miss this episode! For those of you that live in my area, we are planning a watch party to be held somewhere  that has a large party room with TVs. Stay tuned for details!

Mac OS X Mavericks: The Sky is Falling … Or Not.

Settle it down there, Chicken Little!

Settle it down there, Chicken Little!

An article on ZDNet, “Mavericks: The end of Macs in the enterprise?“, complains that Apple will no longer update older versions of their Mac operating systems, now that Mac OS X 10.9 has been released. The author claims that Apple is forcing CIOs to make a choice of upgrading to an untested operating system or leave themselves open to attack. The author certainly makes a convincing sounding argument, but ultimately it is not much more than Chicken Little claiming the sky is falling.

The author starts off by stating that Macs have never been that popular in the enterprise, which is somewhat funny because if Macs are not that popular in the corporate world, then what is the point of writing this article? I can only guess that it serves to tip the author’s hand that he simply isn’t that fond of Macintosh computers, which he reinforces by calling them “shiny” and later “pretty”, as if that is the only reason people buy Apple computers.

To say that Macs have never been that popular “in the enterprise” is true, but it isn’t the whole truth. The reality is that Macs have never been popular with IT departments who are in charge of managing a large number of commodity computers. To ask end-users, I’m sure we’d have a very different answer as to which computer they prefer, if given a choice. In addition, Macs are popular with departments that value what the Mac brings to the table, obviously design and/or publishing departments within corporations. These departments usually operate mostly autonomously from the larger corporate IT department because 1) many IT people have a irrational dislike of computers that aren’t Windows-based PCs, and 2) they generally do not require the constant support a Windows environment requires. Most creative departments are fairly happy to self-support their Macs because they can. And because Mac-using departments generally don’t need help from their corporate IT, it only serves to further raise the ire of IT departments who generally don’t like users who aren’t beholden to their assistance.

Macs will probably never be popular with enterprise IT departments, but it isn’t because of security “issues”. It is because the enterprise wants commodity computing. Macs will never be commodity computing. We shouldn’t look for Macs to replace PCs as commodity computing because mobile devices are doing that already. Not that it is relevant to this discussion, but it is somewhat amusing to see that Apple’s iPhone and iPad are the darling of corporate America. Again, not because they have been blessed by corporate IT, but rather because end users have overwhelmingly demanded it.

The reality is as CIO it doesn’t matter what you think. You will need to support whatever devices your end-users are bringing into the work environment. BYOD isn’t a suggestion anymore. But this is actually a very good thing for the enterprise. Shift the burden of device support to your users. Configure your IT infrastructure so that it doesn’t matter what device your users bring on. And for the love of god, make sure your corporate data security isn’t dependent on securing end-user devices. If your network can be compromised because some  PC has a virus, then you’ve failed. Just as companies don’t give employees cars nor worry about the maintenance of their employees transportation, companies should make it an expectation that employees have properly functioning computing devices. If it doesn’t work, its up to the employees to get it fixed. That will ensure employees make good decisions about their technology. Which usually means NOT choosing a Windows PC.

Still, the entire premise of this article is highly suspect. Why on Earth would you switch to an untested operating system? Mavericks is out now. Start testing it. It’s not like you need to upgrade right this second. You have at least a few weeks if not months to do some very thorough testing and for software vendors to patch software if necessary. The sky is not falling, Chicken Little.

I understand that when viewing the world through Windows-colored glasses, people tend to be a little jittery. Yes, security patches are an absolutely critical thing for Windows systems. I can’t blame anyone for being a little shell shocked when they are in charge of a Windows environment. Windows is a war-zone and those who use Windows need to take every precaution necessary. But after 12 years and only a very few instances of malicious software – most of which has been very minor, not very widespread, and/or easily remedied – I think the proof is in the pudding that Mac OS X is a very secure operating system. Apple might not be patching older operating systems? Boo-hoo. Pull up your big boy pants and realize this is The New World of Technology. If security is your concern, you should be embracing anything that doesn’t start with a “W” and ends with “indows”.

If the idea is to walk away from headaches, everyone in IT should have long ago ran screaming from the migraine that is Windows. Managing Mac computers is a walk in the park compared to the nightmare that is Windows. If the choice is to not leave yourself open to attackers, Windows is NOT that choice. Windows’ swiss-cheese design leaves itself open to attackers and we must stay vigilant to patch every hole in the dam that springs a leak. The Mac OS has proven itself to be a formidable fortress and the latest version is more secure than ever. Instead of acting like Chicken Little and screaming that the sky is falling, take a breath, look at the big picture, and quit missing the forest for the trees.

Can We Now Please Get Serious About Viruses?

system-failureMany news reports last month warned of a new type of ransomware called CryptoLocker. In a nutshell, CryptoLocker uses sophisticated encryption techniques to scramble an infected user’s data and then holds the data for ransom. Only if the user pays $300 will the data be decrypted and become usable again. If the user does not pay $300 within about 3 or 4 days of getting infected, CryptoLocker automatically destroys the decryption key required to unlock the data and the user will never be able to recover the data in any other way. If this sounds nasty, you’re damn right it is.

Of course, as with nearly all malicious software, this malware can only infect Windows-based systems. At this time, CryptoLocker can not infect Macintosh computers, iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), or Android-based devices. While it is within the realm of reality that criminals could create a Mac version, the underlying secure UNIX-based design of the Mac makes this very unlikely (the virtual non-existence of malware for the Mac OS X platform after 12 years should be proof enough). I’ll keep it simple and say there’s zero chance of this happening on iOS platforms. And while this particular incarnation of CryptoLocker probably wouldn’t be effective on an Android device, there are already examples of ransomware popping up on Android devices.

In other news, another malware called Dexter has resurfaced in South Africa after infecting systems in the US, UK and dozens of other countries towards the end of last year. This particular malware attacks Windows-based point-of-sale systems and skims credit card information from customers shopping at infected stores. But what’s tens of millions dollars between friends, eh?

While scams can happen on any platform, and some cross-platform development environments (Java, Adobe Flash) can create malware on any platform that supports them, the bottom line is that Windows is the center of the malware universe. Windows is so full of holes it makes Swiss Cheese jealous. For all the anti-virus software out there, their effectiveness has steadily declined over the years, detecting only 70 to 90 percent of malware according to a report from a few years ago. The situation hasn’t improved over the years, as malware is increasingly prevalent and more sophisticated in its methods of attack and evasion.

Windows is a war zone. If you choose to participate in this environment, you must take increasingly intricate actions to stay protected. And that protection is dubious in nature. Where simple anti-virus software and firewalls used to be enough for most people, it is becoming increasingly clear that additional layers of protection are necessary to actually be “protected”. Most of these steps are far beyond the average computer user’s comprehension or feasibility of implementation and even then it is a constant battle to stay updated and aware.

When will enough be enough? Untold numbers of individuals and businesses lose millions upon millions of dollars a year combating a problem that Microsoft’s operating system fosters. Sure it isn’t Microsoft’s fault that malware authors feast on their operating system, but the reality is that Microsoft created the environment for malware to flourish. Something MUST change in the technology industry because this simply can NOT continue. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, not harder.

It is time to face the stark reality that Windows is no longer (not that it has ever truly been) a platform that we can consider a viable foundation to run our lives or businesses. For all the hype about Windows 8 (not that anyone is listening) the reality is that Windows users are one infection away from losing their valuable data. That data could be irreplaceable photos of their children. Or it could be information that their livelihood depends on. Or it could be other people’s confidential information that they have been entrusted with. I for one am sick of dealing with this problem. It does not need to be this way.

Other operating systems, namely the Mac and iOS, are virtually immune to malware. Nothing is perfect, but Mac OS X is a paradise compared to the Windows war zone. And iOS is virtually impregnable with Apple strictly controlling that environment and how software can be installed on it.

Technology professionals, it is time for a “come to Jesus” moment. If you continue to advocate the deployment of technologies founded on Windows – and if you advocate for the deployment of other malware-susceptible platforms such as Android – you are doing your customers, clients, or employers a disservice. More than that I suggest you are now sabotaging those who pay your salaries. Take a look in the mirror and ask yourselves if you can live with the potential disaster that lurks around the corner. The next CryptoLocker or Dexter attack may hit your systems and you’ll have no one to blame but yourselves. It is time to take a stand and start informing those who look to you for technology expertise that the only real solution to malware is to move away from the platforms that are their breeding grounds. Yes, it will be tough to swim against the current, but the tide is already changing. Will you help lead the charge or simply follow along?

Why Obamacare is NOT Good for Small Businesses

Obama Doctor GloveI stumbled upon an article on the web site of The New Yorker titled, “Why Obamacare is Good for Small Businesses.” As a small business owner myself, in addition to being well connected with many other small business owners across the country, I found the title of the article curious. All evidence to the contrary, Obamacare has been terrible for businesses in this country, small or otherwise. But I took the bait anyway and read the article just in case the author had come across some worthwhile knowledge.

Given the matter-of-fact tone of the title, boldly exclaiming that Obamacare is good for small business, the article reveals itself to be little more than conjecture. As stated in the first paragraph “… Obamacare may well be the best thing Washington has done for American small business in decades.” Later on the article states, “… the likely benefits of Obamacare for small businesses are enormous.” These two statements should be red flags that the author isn’t stating fact, but merely speculating why he thinks Obamacare might be good.

The article first talks about the employer mandate which only affects businesses of 50 or more employees. He out-of-hand dismisses the impact that Obamacare will have on the overall economy because he claims ninety-six percent of businesses in this country have fewer than 50 employees. I won’t argue this point because I’m not a business owner with over 50 employees. Plus this argument doesn’t explain why Obamacare will actually be good for small business, as the article’s title proclaims. Rather it simply tries to refute arguments why it will be bad. Regardless, simple observation of news headlines shows that large numbers of employers are in fact making workforce reductions because of Obamacare. At the very least this appears to be a significant enough trend to warrant further scrutiny, instead of simply shrugging off the very real ramifications this will have on very real people.

The first affirmative argument the author attempts is that Obamacare will make it easier for people to start their own business. The justification being that starting a business was risky because finding affordable health insurance was not guaranteed. People would prefer staying employed to keep their health insurance through their employer rather than try to find private health insurance. This phenomenon, labeled as “job lock”, I agree exists, but not to the extent that the author claims. Certainly one barrier to starting a business is finding health insurance. But starting a business is risky all the way around. Finding health insurance is a risk that can be mitigated (or at least could be until Obamacare). First, many people starting businesses join their spouse’s plan when possible. I know many examples of entrepreneurs who got around job lock in this way. Second, while there is no guarantee of finding affordable health insurance, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to verify this one way or the other. Someone considering starting their own business will know for sure if they can find affordable insurance with just a few phone calls. The simple “threat” of not finding affordable health insurance won’t actually stop someone from starting a business (at least not anyone who is serious). True, if someone actually can’t find affordable health insurance that might stop them from starting a business. But the author gives no supporting evidence to show that this is truly a problem. And if job lock actually was a problem, Obamacare has definitively made this situation significantly worse!

I run my own business consisting of myself and my wife as the only employees. When I launched this business full-time over 11 years ago, initially I went on my wife’s health insurance plan. That lasted about a year until my wife was downsized. Since that point, about 10 years ago, we have had private insurance. We too were initially fearful at the loss of our health insurance that we received from her employer. And while we did end up paying more once we went private, it was a lot less than many people were telling us it would be. While our private health insurance costs have increased steadily year over year, we recently received a letter from our health insurance company stating that our premium had gone up significantly. Additionally, the plan we currently have can not be renewed after December 31st of this year (hmmm … I wonder why?). The new plans they offer cost even more than our newly increased premium and have a higher deductible. Shopping around so far shows that other insurance carriers show similar trends. Obamacare has definitely effected my personal economy in a negative way. But I guess that’s an impact that is too small for the author to care about.

It would be one thing if my family’s siutation was an anomaly. But I’ve heard from many other business owners that they received the same news from their insurance companies as well. I’m actually lucky. My increase, while significant enough, is small compared to some other stories I’ve been personally made aware of. And if you don’t take my word for it, perhaps you’d take the word of another small business owner? Or if that isn’t enough, perhaps you’d take the word of people who championed Obamacare and voted for Obama twice? They’ve been shocked to find their private healthcare costs have skyrocketed recently.

The author states that Obamacare could enable 1.5 million people to become self-employed by eliminating “job lock”. The reality is that if health insurance “job lock” was keeping people from starting their own business, Obamacare has just thrown away the key. The increased cost of private health insurance due to Obamacare is yet another example of big government intrusion hurting entrepreneurship and the little guy.

The author then goes on to state that Obamacare will provide tax credits to small businesses that want to insure their employees, evening the playing field with large companies. He also states that “community rating” will restrict insurance companies from charging certain small businesses more due to higher risk employees. First, insurance costs are based on risk for good reason. It allows companies to charge fairly. Those with higher risk are more likely to use insurance, therefore are more costly to carry. But those with less risk benefit from lower premiums. As Obamacare has now proven with individual private insurance, if insurance companies can’t charge higher premiums due to higher risk, then they must charge everyone higher premiums! Just as I and many other business owners who have private insurance must now pay higher premiums due to Obamacare’s mandates, what do we think is going to happen to the cost of health insurance for small business? Obamacare will in fact further de-incentivize small businesses from carrying health insurance for their employees. I don’t think this supports the author’s assertion that Obamacare will be good for small business.

Interestingly the author points out that the fact most Americans get health insurance through work is a “historical accident”. During World War II, the government forced private businesses to freeze wages. In an attempt to work around what the government had done to the free market, employers started offering health insurance and benefits as a way to increase overall compensation. He then states that Congress gave corporations tax incentives after the war to keep providing health insurance (blaming conservatives and doctors for stymying the creation of universal health care, as if government-run health insurance is something to aspire to). What the author fails to point out is that this “accident” was caused by government interference in the free market. If government hadn’t instituted unconstitutional wage freezes and then given tax breaks only to corporations for providing health insurance (why had tax levels risen to such high levels that tax “breaks” were significantly beneficial and why didn’t they give tax breaks to small businesses and individuals?) then the whole “job lock” situation wouldn’t exist today. Hmmm … the overreach of government caused this problem? I wonder what other problems government overreach has caused?

The battle over Obamacare truly is a big waste of time and energy. Obamacare ultimately is just a symptom of a bigger problem. The real issue we all must deal with is the high cost of health care and the correspondingly high cost of health insurance. At the root of the problem lies big government. As the article titled, “Let’s Make Health Care Inexpensive Again,” correctly points out, the cost of health care and health insurance has steadily increased in direct proportion to the amount of government interference in the health care industry. Note that this article was written in 2002! As recently as the 1950′s, this country had the highest standard of health care at a fraction of what it costs today,  health insurance was available to nearly everyone – even people with pre-existing conditions, and doctors made house calls. As an example of the costly encroachment of government, the article points out that every time the government forces an insurance company to cover a particular medical procedure, the cost of insurance goes up for everyone. 11 years later, this should have been obvious to most people, but if it wasn’t, Obamacare has just made it painfully obvious to the entire country.

Instead of tackling the real cause of skyrocketing health insurance costs – big government overreach and interference in healthcare – Obamacare has doubled-down on failed policies, virtually guaranteeing that healthcare costs will continue to rise – except this time it will be a rise of unprecedented proportions. I’m not sure what the author was thinking, but increased healthcare costs aren’t good for anyone. Obamacare is definitely NOT good for small business.

Obama and Apple

President, I've worked with Apple. I know Apple. Apple is a friend of mine. President, you're no Apple.

Obama, I’ve worked with Apple. I know Apple. Apple is a friend of mine. Obama, you’re no Apple.

As usual, please read my Obligatory Obama Disclaimer if you haven’t already.

As expected, the rollout of the online Obamacare exchanges was plagued with issues. In an effort to make excuses, Obama compared the launch of his exchanges with the release of Apple’s iOS 7 just a couple of weeks earlier. He said Apple found a glitch at release, fixed it, and nobody was suggesting that Apple should be shut down. He suggested that we should give Obamacare the same latitude while it works through its glitches, even after they’ve had 3 years to get it ready. Well, Mr. Obama, you started this game, so let’s take your comparison for a little spin, shall we?

If Apple had a record of terrible programs and systems like that of the federal government, they wouldn’t be the most valuable tech company in the world. They’d be more like … well … Microsoft. Obamacare is to the federal government what Windows 8 is to Microsoft: disasters of unprecedented scale that threaten to bankrupt their creators.

Like Windows 8, if Apple had put out such a terrible system, a system that many experts predicted would be awful, there would have been a huge uproar from their customers. Why is Obama so surprised that his “customers” are pushing back?

Unlike Obamacare, if I don’t like a product Apple puts out I can choose not to buy it. Apple’s products don’t cause other increases in my cost of living. And Apple damn sure doesn’t forcibly take my money if I refuse to buy their products.

Comparing a socialist program like Obamacare – supported by forced taxation, coercion, and threats of violence to ensure compliance – to a product developed in free market – in which customers freely make the choice to purchase – is a slap in the face to the principles this country was founded upon.